By a Newsnet reporter
One of Westminster's favourite scare tactics against Scottish independence was blown out of the water yesterday by senior EU officials.
The claim that the remainder of the UK would remain within the EU but Scotland would find itself outside and have to renegotiate entry has been made by many Unionist politicians seeking to undermine Scottish confidence in independence.
However, speaking to the French news agency AFP, senior officials within the EU have said that the rump UK would find itself in an identical position to a newly independent Scotland, and that both would have to renegotiate the terms of their entry into the EU.
In an attempt to ramp up the pressure on the Scots, Unionists have claimed that Scotland's entry could be blocked by a veto from a single member state. However this was dismissed by lawyers for the EU who said an independent Scotland could be treated as one of two successor states, and that a separate seat for Edinburgh would require only a simple majority vote. No single EU member would have a veto.
A lawyer for the EU told the news agency that a deal could be "done by the [European] Council, using qualified majority voting and with the required say-so of the European Parliament."
The standard procedure for external accession candidates such as Croatia, which enters in 2013, involves the unanimous backing of all EU governments. The statement from the EU's own legal advisors make it clear that it is likely that Scotland would be treated as a successor state to a currently existing member, and not as an external candidate for membership.
In an illustration of how David Cameron's anti-EU grandstanding may have cost him dear, the lawyers noted that this advice is based upon the re-negotiation of the EU's Lisbon Treaty, an option which Mr Cameron rejected when he staged his walk out last month. Had Mr Cameron remained at the negotiating table, he may have been able to influence the attitudes of other EU leaders towards Scottish independence.
The UK's existing opt outs will also come up for discussion. EU lawyers say that there is no doubt within the EU that if the Scots vote in favour of independence, complex three-way negotiations between London, Edinburgh and Brussels will be triggered, which may alter Britain's voting clout and financial relations with the EU.
"There is a valid legal question about what 'rUK' (what remains of the United Kingdom) would have to renegotiate," said one senior EU source.
An exit from the UK for Scotland would reduce London's EU budget contributions, but also re-allocate billions of euros in the rebate negotiated by Margaret Thatcher, which London receives each year in lieu of French and German farm aid or grants for regional development and social projects.
"All sorts of allocations that are country-based would change," the source said. "We're not talking about policy renegotiation - but a rewrite of Britain's membership."
With the Scotland home to half of all EU oil drilling platforms as well as a substantial proportion of Europe's renewable energy sources, what Alex Salmond has termed a "trillion-pound asset base", Scottish independence would have a major impact on EU energy security. One EU source said that Scottish independence would trigger "major fun and games over energy" and there is no doubt that the EU would be keen to accept an independent Scotland as a full member as soon as possible.
David Cameron now finds himself isolated within Europe, having rashly alienated potential EU allies with his intransigence over efforts to save the euro. Few EU leaders are disposed to do the Conservative leader any favours, and many will welcome the opportunity that Scottish independence brings in order to take Cameron down a peg or two. The EU is likely to look far more favourably upon a more EU positive Scotland than a deeply Euro-sceptic rump UK.